Salavat Yulaev showed why they’re the only undefeated team remaining in the KHL on Friday, putting forth nearly as dominant a performance as Avangard Omsk unleashed on Metallurg Magnitigorsk on Wednesday in defeating the Hawks by the score of 5-1. Alexander Radulov won the battle of the KHL headliners, setting up Ufa’s third goal, while Jaromir Jagr was held off the scoreboard for the third time in five games.
Alexei Cherepanov was also held scoreless, playing on what amounted to Omsk’s third line with replacement center Anton Malyshev in the absence of usual linemate Anton Kuryanov, who missed the game with a broken finger. Malyshev, who’s gotten his first taste of senior pro level hockey at the age of 23 this season with Omsk, has been one of the lone pleasant surprises for Avangard thus far this season, leading the team with three goals. But he too was scoreless in the game.
Head coach Sergei Gersonsky, who was an assistant in Ufa under Salavat coach Sergei Mikhalev until he took the top job in Omsk at the end of December last year, juggled his lines further over the course of the game, demoting Czech Pavel Rosa, who’s play he’s been dissatisfied with and who’s thus far shown little chemistry with Jagr, to the line with Malyshev and Cherepanov, while moving Cherepanov’s usual left winger, Alexander Popov, up to play with Jagr.
John Grahame made his third consecutive start, but got off to in inauspicious start when gave up the first goal at 8:34 of the first period by unwisely opting to chase a puck that was put out in front of his crease. Ufa’s second goal came on a penalty shot after Omsk defenseman Dmitri Riyabkin pulled down former Montreal Canadien Alexander Perezhogin on a partial break. Igor Shadilov beat Grahame cleanly for the third goal after Omsk’s porous defense backed in and allowed him to skate all the way in on goal unfettered.
Avangard pulled back within two with a little under five minutes to go in the 2nd period when Alexei Kopeikin put home the rebound of Dmitri Pestunov’s shot. It was one of the few instances in the game when Omsk was able to thwart Ufa’s neutral zone trap, which stifled the formidable Avangard offense all game long. But Omsk gave the two goal lead right back with just over a minute to go in the period, when Andrei Sidyakin beat Grahame through the five-hole from the left circle. The goal effectively sealed Avangard’s fate.
The Hawks did little to threaten in the third, and gave up the final goal of game with a total defensive breakdown which started with a defensive giveaway along the boards and ended with Leos Cermak slipping Cherepanov’s coverage and putting the puck past Grahame from the hashmarks.
The masochists who missed it (or Salavat Yulaev fans) are welcome to suffer through the entire game, but I highly recommend the abridged version. If photos are all you can stomach, you can get your fill with one of two photo galleries.
Following up on the great stat debate from Wednesday’s game against Magnitigorsk, the mystery assist credited to Cherepanov appears to have stood, as the KHL finally updated their statistics page and it reflects the lone point. The stats also reveal that Cherepanov played around 15 and a half minutes in 17 shifts in Wednesday’s game. In Friday’s game, playing without Kuryanov on what essentially became the team’s third line, he played only 12:17 in 15 shifts.
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